Staircase Baluster

Designed by Louis Sullivan, American, 1856 - 1924, and George Elmslie, American (born Scotland), 1871 - 1952. Made for the Schlesinger and Mayer Store, now Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company, Chicago.

Designed in Chicago, Illinois, United States, North and Central America


Copper-plated cast iron

39 x 9 7/8 x 1 inches (99.1 x 25.1 x 2.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company through the Art Institute of Chicago, 1972

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The late-nineteenth-century department store was an expression of the cultural ambitions of its owners and their target markets. In 1899 Chicago’s Schlesinger and Mayer Store commissioned Louis Sullivan to design a building (still standing) the size of a full city block. While the upper levels are austere, the base is wrapped in a remarkable cast-iron decorative band that swirls around the corner entrance tower. The exterior detail extended into every element of the interior, including the staircase and the ornamental balusters, which were removed from the store in 1972. The Museum acquired six of the balusters including this example; here the underlying geometry that Sullivan learned from Frank Furness was overtaken by curvilinear designs in the contemporary Art Nouveau style.